Posts Tagged ‘FENX’

How important is  seating on a commercial airline flight?  Business types shoot hard and fast for first class, having grown accustomed to a life granted them by their acumen, success, or both.  Sometimes though, I wonder about some of first class’s denizens – how did you get here?  Look the type to be lounging and sipping a Martini or Mai-Thai you do not!  Personally, I fly coach and shoot for the rear since it is safer to wait for all the impatient people to exit the aircraft.  By the time they’re done jostling baggage and off to their next-oh-so-important destination, my walker is off the plane and I can continue on.  In coach though it’s always the “window vs. aisle” debate and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I was an aisle guy. What if you get stuck in the dreaded middle seat, sitting motionless amidst the neutral zone?

Welcome to the life of a guy named Matt Gesser, who – as hard as he tried to get a window seat – got stuck in the neutral zone on a Delta flight from Baltimore to Detroit, en-route to Tulsa, Oklahoma last week.  Like a good Dad, Matt was trying to get home for the football scrimmage of one of his sons.  A lover of both Jesus and Star Wars, it’s no surprise that he once helped with a church plant and that he works with Star Wars merchandise in his day job; the Imperial Crest tattoo on his arm is also a dead giveaway.  A husband and father of three boys, he’s always looking for inspiring stories and real life examples to share with his sons, as the eldest of the triad wants to one day play in the National Football League and the middle son, Stone, loves drawing things from Star Wars and watching Star Wars:  The Clone Wars with his dad.  It’s while sitting in that aisle seat that I met Matt.

Don’t ask me how the conversation started, I can’t remember.  I can tell you it covered everything from Jesus, Star Wars, and the connection between the Apostle Paul and The Terminator, to my story, the FENX Project, his work with Hasbro, how he moved across the country to help with a church plant, and what I hope to do once my job in Congress ends.   We talked the whole flight, one thing to another, much like Lando and Wedge racing to escape the reaction which precipitated the destruction of the Death Star II.  Towards the end of the conversation he assured me that one way or another this idea I have of traveling and speaking to share my journey with others would come to pass, and that he wanted to share my story with his sons to show them that “the impossible can become possible…”  It felt a little bit like living an episode of Touch…again.

Probably the best airline conversation I’ve ever had; who knew the neutral zone would ever be so important, that even an airline seat had a destiny?

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In the last three weeks I’ve authored a series of blog posts in an attempt to forever capture the spirit of the events at Lake Ann Camp during Alpha week of Reborne Rangers 2012.  Why go in the first place?  Why take an entire week off work in the midst of a busy legislative season and an election year?  Why book an expensive plane ticket on short notice and go through the hassle of missing a flight and flying out early the next day while the world slumbers?  My love for this place aside, I went because someone thought I had something worthwhile to say, and had I not gone I’d be a step behind on my own journey of discovery and acceptance; not willing to live out my own admonition to the Rangers to “take your first step into a larger world”.  Put another way, I was supposed to go if for no other reason than the many “lollipop moments” that occurred.

When I began wrestling with the question earlier this year of “if I were to go, what would I have to say?”, the single theme that kept coming up was:   illustrating the importance of destiny and purpose to avoid wandering about like Scott Pilgrim before he met Ramona Flowers and “The League of Evil Ex’s“.  What’s more, the ability to use the circumstances of my own story to illustrate this concept; that and my love for “The Wars” (Star Wars) and general Hero/Superhero culture to attempt a 21st Century equivalent to Paul on Mars Hill in Acts 17.  What better way to begin than with the “snap-hiss” of a toy lightsaber?

With that as my launchpad, I explained the significance of the lightsaber, Lake Ann Camp as an arena of conflict in spiritual terms, and the Reborne Rangers program as a training ground for transformation.  In sharing my story with them, the faith built up in me through various events and circumstances could be loaned out to them for their own edification and encouragement toward embracing the story that is being written in their lives instead of living their lives through the story of someone else; Revelation 12:11 in real life.

I spoke of how my story began in an operating room and not in a maternity ward because of the circumstances of premature birth and the need get out into the world ASAP.  How the doctors didn’t expect me to live through the night and presented my parents with a grim assessment once I did, putting before my mom and Dad the choice if they wanted me (or not).  Moving through childhood I mentioned the mystery of a number of the scars my body carries because I was too young to remember how I got them.  Nevertheless, my memory of Shriner’s hospital at the end of 1996 is still very clear as I talked about much of what happened back then and what it was like to be confronted with my own mortality and stark spiritual reality as a young teenager and to carry that as life goes on – how it changes the way you “mind your surroundings“.

As I neared the crux of my address to them I talked of my desire as a Jr. Higher to be in Washington someday, working on Capitol Hill because two friends saw something in me and called it out when we were kids and how all of that brought me to where I am today.  “When Paul wrote Ephesians”, I told them, “he wrote two verses that we know very well (Eph 2:8-9), but he also wrote the next verse – Eph 2:10 – and when I encountered it a few years ago, it rocked my world.  ‘For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which He has prepared for us in advance'”  I explained that this verse implies destiny, puts forth the idea of individual purpose, and shouts from the rooftops that “there are things on this earth that you are meant to do that nobody else can do; there are problems to which you are the solution and prayers to which you are the answer – find out what those things are!”  To illustrate this idea, I mentioned Frodo’s conversation with Galadriel in the Fellowship of the Ring.

I went on to tell the story of attending an events in DC earlier this year wherein I got to see James Earl Jones (the voice of Darth Vader in Star Wars and Mufasa in The Lion King) interviewed live on stage.  I explained that in  attending this event, I learned that James Earl didn’t have a relationship with his dad growing up and how that affected him.  Further, I talked about how interesting it was to me that a man without a father would go on to to voice both the most notorious father to grace the silver screen in recent memory and the best fatherly portrayal I’d ever seen; one that tugs at me even now, because I see so much of my Dad and I in it.  I went on to posit that what my Dad and I have done with the FENX and media coverage over the last few years is part of Eph 2:10 for our lives as father and son, something we were meant to do together.

I thought it important to discuss the issue of disability, difficulty, and healing and how that ties into my purpose, my destiny; putting forward the idea that the “Greater Miracle” wouldn’t be a complete healing of this physical pain and infirmity, but that I have persevered for 30 years with it.  In perseverance I have learned dependence, knowing that I need to depend on the Heavenly Father much like I depend on my earthy Dad.  If my Heavenly Father is looking out for my welfare more-so than my earthly Dad, and my earthy Dad built me a rocket-car, how much more can the Heavenly Father do?  More than I can ask or think  (Matthew 7:9-11 and Eph 3:20 fused).

To wrap it all together, I simply explained:  “If you follow Christ and journey where He wants you to go it will often be filled with unexpected adventures to places and through things you could not imagine.  For once you leave this place and venture outside, the wisdom of Hobbits will ring true – ‘Home is behind, the world ahead, and there are many paths to tread; it’s a dangerous thing going out your front door, for if you don’t keep your feet there is no telling where the road will take you’  If you ask the Father ‘what story are you writing in my life?’ and follow where that leads, then you will be able to follow Obi-Wan Kenobi as Luke Skywalker did and ‘ take your first step into a larger world'”.

People need to know how important this idea of purpose is; there’s a reason that it’s one of the prime things individuals struggle with, that’s because it’s fundamental to who we are.  It’s a large part of the answer to the question “why am I here?”  If a life like mine, with all it’s uncertainty, perceived difficulty, and other challenges can be forged into something that illustrates purpose, plan, and destiny in a way that helps someone else embrace their own, then it makes the overgrown trail…that takes a lightsaber to blaze, worth more than it was moments before that “lollipop moment” happened; even if the wise words of Optimus Prime are often apt – “Destiny rarely calls upon us at the moment of our choosing…”

What is Ephesians 2:10 for you?

On Wednesday evening of this week, I missed a fight for the first time.  In almost thirty years of flying I have never missed a flight.  I was to catch a flight from Ronald Regan Airport to Detroit Metro to spend time in Michigan, a well-worn routine.  While this summer flight to Michigan generally happens in August, part of the reasoning for an early trip was needing to get to Lake Ann  Camp next week to speak to the Alpha week of Reborn Rangers 2012, a special leadership program that has run each summer since 1999; the other reason, because my family was already planning on being at the Watchtower in the Upper Peninsula (the lake house in the middle of nowhere) and extra travel on their part to retrieve me wasn’t going to happen on my account.  In preparation for this  flight, I made sure to do two things: (1) to book a cab ahead of time, and (2) check with the TSA to make sure that I was allowed to pack a toy lightsaber into my carry-on bag for use at Lake Ann Camp later on.  I checked with the TSA and booked the cab; that cab never arrived. The company tried to track it down, never did, and sent another cab.  This second cab whisked me away to the airport, but to no avail; TSA security took their time making me wait for a special screening – since I can’t go through detectors – and did nothing when I clearly heard my name being called for this flight to Michigan, which happened to be the last flight to Michigan for the night.  Rushing to the gate was an exercise in futility as I realized the door was closed and the plane moments from pulling away.

“When is the earliest flight tomorrow?” I asked the girl behind the Delta counter. “6 am, and you might want to be on that one”, she replied.  Calling my Dad, I explained the situation and after conferring with him, elected for the 6 am flight.  With my next move decided, I grabbed my bags and walker and slowly made my way out of the airport to a cab, feeling a bit deflated and defeated as the cab drove me home to The Sanctum.  Upon arrival home, an out of state friend calls and I explain the situation, considering the possibility that there was a reason I missed that flight beyond a cab driver’s mistake; her affirmation was simple “there’s probably someone you’re supposed to meet tomorrow” and I left it at that.  Later that evening I posted about the debacle on Facebook and a friend mentioned “sounds like you might be living an episode of Touch”; the FOX show about an autistic boy who can see the connections between people – expressing what he sees through patterns and numbers – and his struggling father who aids the boy in ensuring that certain lives cross at the proper time.  I went to bed that night knowing I had to be up at 3:45 am to catch another cab at 4:30 am for this 6:00 am flight.

Awaking the next morning, I got ready for the long day ahead and packed some last minute items.  As I was going about this task, a verse from the Book of Genesis exploded into my mind in song form – thanks to all those years of listening to GT and the Halo Express – Genesis 1:27, so I began to hum and sing it as I went about my business.  In short order I received a text message to my phone informing me the taxi I scheduled was en-route to my location.  I hurried out the door with bags and walker to meet the taxi in front of my apartment building.  As I approached the car, I noticed the identification number: 127.  I stopped, looked again, smiled, and got in the car; maybe I WAS about to live a television episode.

Upon arrival to the airport, personnel were kind enough to get me through the security line quickly and no TSA agent went rummaging through my carry-on to inspect the lightsaber traveling within.  Past security, I stopped for breakfast at the McDonald’s near my departure gate and had to execute the child-like stunt  of sneaking under the barrier to get in line.  This caught the attention of a man standing in line named Mark, who helped me pass the barrier once he caught on to what I was doing; there aren’t too many in line for McDonald’s at the airport at 5 am on a Thursday.  We got to talking about still being child-like when you grow older and the wonderful gentleman offered to pay for my breakfast.  It’s afterwards that we began to talk about why he was in town and where he was from.  I learned that he was in town to talk to members of the Minnesota Congressional Delegation about some hunting and conservation issues.  Asking what offices he visited, he mentioned two offices where I knew folks who worked there and we talked about who those people were and my connections to them.  Unfortunately our conversation was cut short as he had to catch his multi-stop flight back to Minnesota.  Reflecting on that, the small voice in the back of my mind insisted I contact him to share the story of my own journey with no idea the effect such a tale might have.  Considering the last time that clearly happened, a “chance” meeting which lead to The FENX Project appearing on NBC around the country, I have complied with that prompting and hopefully it encourages him in the midst of a world where there is less and less to smile about.

On a lesser note, during my flight I heard a young lady in my row ask the person next to her why it was that the “superhero base” in The Avengers was a “flying, invisible boat.”  I seized the opportunity to set her strait and explain it’s from the comic books and you need to sometimes do things to keep the fanboys happy; besides, it is Joss Whedon we’re talking about.  As one friend later remarked to me, “And you wondered why you were on that flight…”  With this whole “adventure within an adventure” behind me, who knows what next week at Lake Ann Camp might bring, but I know I’ll be meeting some folks for the first time whom I am meant to connect with.

Riding Towards Eternity,

Aaron

Sometimes crazy ideas find their way into our minds.  A few days ago I caught one of those.  Last week, I finished leading a small group at National Community Church (NCC) that read through Pastor Mark Batterson‘s The Circle Maker (In full disclosure Mark is the Pastor at NCC).  In our final meeting as a small group, we embarked on an exercise of creating a list of Life Goals; things we’d like to have accomplished by the time our lives come to an end.  Personally I think it’s much wiser to start thinking about this at 29, or even earlier, as opposed to a later time.  In The Circle Maker, Pastor Mark has some pretty interesting life goals: making a movie, speaking at a commencement, and writing a New York Times Bestseller to name a few (which he has done with The Circle Maker).

Over the last few weeks I’ve spent some time watching a number of TED Talks, presentations given on various topics by leaders and innovators in different fields, who have ideas worth spreading or stories worth telling.  It could be someone talking about mobile technology and it’s uses in locating people as part of disaster relief, a discussion about Moore’s Law and continuing upward trends in technology, imparting the art of storytelling though enabling technology, the power of secrets, or even the energy future of our planet as impacted by a teenager who wanted to create a fission reaction in their garage and built a reactor to do it.  It’s impassioned people sharing their ideas and perspective on life to impact culture and inspiring people to think about the world around them.  Last week as I was working on this “Bucket List” of sorts I realized that one of my goals should be (and now is) to share my journey, and the story of the FENX, at a TED conference; to impart to that group of influencers the value of an individual life and how such a life forged by challenging experiences is enabled to see the world in a different light, and thus embark on a somewhat accidental quest to revolutionize the lives of others via unique mobility solutions.  To share what many see as a story of hope, courage, and family.

But it doesn’t end there.  After processing this thought on TED, something in me said “Why not an audience of 10,000?”  My inner geek immediately reacted “10,000?!  You could almost buy your own ship for that!” But why not 10,000?  Why not consider it a goal to be able to share this same story with a single audience of 10,000 people at a single event?  It could certainly happen; audiences of 1,000 and 3,500 happened in college and there was less story to tell then.

So here’s to “10,000 and TED”, right up there on the List with “writing a book by the time I am 35” and quite a bit higher than “Attending San Diego Comic-Con”

Riding Towards Eternity,

Aaron

Not all Jackets are created equal, they just aren’t; it’s a fact of life.   I happen to know this because I own one of the coolest jackets ever; it’s so cool that it was probably the understudy for Luke Skywalker’s jacket at the Yavin awards ceremony in Star Wars Episode IV:  A New Hope (I wonder  if that got broadcast across the galaxy as”The First Yavin Awards”?)  This happens to be a black, red, and white Fox Racing  padded leather jacket given to me in college by my father; the first racing jacket he ever owned.  He previously tried to give it to my  brother, but for some reason the cool factor didn’t hit him the same way.  I pull it out every Spring and Fall, never knowing what adventures it might be involved in.

Several years ago, one Spring afternoon in April, this jacket was resting on a post in my dorm room at Cedarville University.  The weather was perfect and my brain told me that my Lake Ann Camp polo shirt didn’t need that jacket to tag along to ward off the elements; the elements weren’t the danger, something else was coming.    The clock on the wall said I was late for a afternoon class, my last class of the day before my dad was supposed to pick me up for Easter break in Michigan.  Exiting the room, I assessed my transportation options:  the Revo scooter wasn’t working, so my best option was the navy blue custom tricycle I sometimes called the “FENX II”.  Strapping my feet into the pedal locks and adjusting the handlebars, I flew out of the dorm at nearly top speed…right down the paved hill my dorm rested on.  Hurtling towards the sidewalk, I didn’t see the motorcycle coming right away; once I did the bigger cycle missed me, but my cycle still flipped over and I was attached to it at the pedals.

Next thing I knew, I was surrounded by people and Campus Safety was on it’s way.  I was back on the bike now, but there was blood flowing down my arm, and small chucks of asphalt embedded near my elbow.  Campus Safety arrived, put me in the back of the car, and drove me over to get cleaned up by the medical minds.  In the least, I was able to give them an amusing tale as they patched up my arm; a tale I’ve since then gotten decent mileage out of.  Afterwards, I tired to make the last few minutes of my class that afternoon; I was out of luck.  The professor was walking out of the room as I came down the hallway with the tricycle, and all I had to do was lift my arm as he asked where I’d been.

In short order my father arrived from the Mitten to the North, my accidental attempt at being a terrible Evil Kenevil (or Johnny Blaze for that matter) completely unknown to him.  As I staggered toward the truck (I don’t walk, I stagger), the first thing he spied was my arm.  In that moment I think I had an idea of what Marty McFly must have felt like when he burned the rug at age 8.  He looked at me, then my arm again: “What did you do?” (The “this time” was sort of implied.)  I explained my accidental acrobatics as best I could, and the matter of fact  response kinda surprised me:  “Well, I always wanted to build you something that would do a better job of getting you around and protecting you from the weather…and apparently, yourself”

And with those words The FENX Project was re-birthed in earnest; all because I didn’t wear my Fox Racing  Jacket and have the aiging scars of my elbow making out with the pavement to prove it.

Riding Towards Eternity,

Aaron

 

 

On the rare occasion that I get to go before an audience and speak about my journey so far, it is all but inevitable that I will talk about purpose and destiny at some point; partly because they are ideas that interest me, and partly because it’s easier to bring in Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or Terminator that way (all popular franchises in our culture that speak to destiny).  Speaking before a Christian audience, I’ll often frame my ideas about destiny and purpose around the words of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which He prepared for us in advance (or ‘in advance for us to do’)”.  Put another way, I will sometimes ask this question:  “Whose prayers are you destined to be the answer to?” I’ve thought much about this as an idea in recent years, as a third-person concept outside of my personal orbit.  Recently, that’s changed – and for the better.

In my last post I mentioned attending the Leadership Summit at National Community Church two weekends ago.  After it’s conclusion my brain was more than full but I wasn’t done thinking.  I began thinking about this idea of answers to prayer again and it was as if God was asking me personally “What if you intentionally prayed that way?  What if, every morning you prayed that that day, somehow, some way, you could be the answer to the prayer of someone else; what might happen?”  I’ll be the first to admit that I was harboring some apprehension about this prayer “experiment” because consistent prayer is one of the things that puts you on the front-lines of combat in spiritual terms and in conflict, those on the front-lines generally pose the greatest threat to the opposition.  The opposition in turn wants to strike back at your weakest point, and for me that’s a point of biological structure; because of some primary and secondary conditions I’ve lived with all my life, or a long stretch of it, I’m weaker and very vulnerable to pain and discomfort.  Moreover, already knowing what this feels like and what forms it can manifest in, tends to increase the dread if you know it’s coming (or might come); hence, the apprehension.

Nevertheless, I resolved to press forward with this idea.  The first few days were terrible, as pain and biological difficulty seemed to be on the hunt.  A few days later I was talking on the phone with a friend from out of town about a situation surrounding a mutual friend of ours, explaining how a friend of mine in here in Washington (which this out of town friend did not know) and I were planning on trying to help resolve this situation with our mutual friend.  In the midst of this explanation, my out of town friend just stops and says “wow, what you are trying to do is really an answer to the prayers some of us have prayed for awhile”.  I was standing in my kitchen at the time and the world. just. stopped. “What did you just say?”, I asked.  The words were repeated.  I then began to explain the whole prayer experiment I was in the midst of and the individual at the other end of the phone was amazed as well; the Master of the Universe taking the time to confirm a path I was on.  I also found it beyond coincidence or luck that the friend on the phone was reading The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson at this time; a great book on prayer if the  ever was one.

This doesn’t happen every second of every day or even every day, but when it does occur it’s wise to take note. I sometimes wonder if the FENX or the story of my journey so far  has been the answer to the prayers of others (other than my own).

And so I continue on this path, excited to see what other prayers of others I might be the answer to, knowing that most of those answer I will probably never be aware of, but the One who made the galaxies and crafted them into place will, and sometimes that has to be enough.

Riding Towards Eternity,

Aaron

This post brought to you by the Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary Orchestra Album

Author’s note: I’m spoiling the plot for a few of the original Star Trek films here, so if you have never seen them and plan to, stop. reading. now.

The genesis of a blog post will often come in like The Flash, swift and mind jarring, and at the most random times.  Recently I was thinking back to a few summers ago when a local cinema in Washington, DC was showing some of the original Star Trek films at midnight in preparation for the imminent release of the reboot directed by J.J. Abrams.  As such, when some friends of mine asked if I wanted to go see Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Kahn with them at midnight I couldn’t turn down the offer to see the finest film in the series on the silver screen, as it was released shortly before I was born.  Over the years I’ve developed a deep appreciation for the film (and it’s sequel) because of how it handles issue of life, death, loss, love, and responsibility (or lack thereof) and the reality that “no one is ever safe” in the midst of characters that for many are synonymous with popular culture.

The tale begins with Admiral James Kirk overseeing a batch of cadets at Starfleet Academy undergoing the Kobyashi Maru scenario, a test of command ability that everyone fails.  It’s Kirk’s birthday and he struggles with aging and riding a desk job instead of exploring the galaxy from the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise.  Soon enough, they are asked to take the Enterprise on a mission with the training crew of cadets to investigate an incident at a Federation starbase, Regula I.  Meanwhile, another Starfleet vessel, the U.S.S. Reliant, has been hijacked by an old enemy of Kirk’s, an enemy bent on revenge for actions from 15 years prior.  This enemy comes across knowledge of the Genesis Device – technology that can create life from lifelessness (as well as the reverse), which happens to have been created and stewarded by an old flame of  Admiral Kirk’s and the son Kirk never knew.  After a brutal battle fueled by the rage of his old enemy, Kirk’s best friend makes a great sacrifice to keep the  “ship…out of danger…” telling James that “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one” and the film concludes with the hope of new life from lifelessness.

Star Trek III begins with little time having passed.  The father of Kirk’s best friend visits him, begging him to find his son and return him to his home planet so he can be restored.  To do this, entails great risk and possible loss, because he must return to the planet that the Genesis Device was unleashed upon, something the United Federation of Planets has forbidden, as wonderfully expounded upon by a minor character in the film with “Genesis?!  Genesis allowed is NOT, Genesis forbidden…”  Gathering his willing crew members, Kirk steals the Enterprise from Starfleet and returns to Genesis to find his friend, only to find his son (and his friend) planet side and in danger from the   mortal enemy of the Federation, the Klingon Empire.  Rescuing the friend entails great personal  loss to James Kirk and when the the friend is restored he asks Kirk “why?  Why did you come back for me?”  The unspoken secondary questions being why did you sacrifice your ship and the chance to save your son to save me?  Why did you allow yourself to risk and ultimately lose the things that have defined you for as long as we have been friends?”  Kirk simply responds, “because sometimes the needs of the one, outweigh the needs of the few or the many”.

I ruminate on this idea every so often because we live in a culture that loves to talk about “the greater good” or the “greatest good for the greatest number” and yet in our actions it is more about “I want what I want and I wanted it two days ago so why isn’t it here yet?”  Two conflicting ideas that very rarely work together and always live contentiously within one another’s orbits.  Neither of them are always right and sometimes neither of them are the proper choice in a given situation.  I think about Christ’s parable of the Lost Sheep in Matthew 18:12-14, wherein he asks if the Shepherd won’t go in search of the one who is lost and leave the ninety-nine to do it.  The answer is of course “yes, he would” as the question is a rhetorical one.  It flows into the same sort of question that the Apostle Paul asks in Romans 8:31 “If God is FOR Us, then who can be against us?”  Answering the question is GOD for you?” is much easier than answering the question”Is God for YOU?” or to put it at eye level “Is God for ME?”  The answer is yes, but coming to terms with that answer in our finite confines is a challenge that can take a lifetime to overcome, because we often do not see ourselves as God sees us:  worth the risk and the potential for loss.  Spock didn’t see himself as Kirk saw him.

Sometimes when I meet others as a result of the FENX, occasionally I will be asked the question of “why did your dad do this?” after I tell them the tale of it taking three years to build.  Some don’t ask the question because the answer is an obvious one, but to those that ask it I simply say that he built it because he loves me, he built it because he sees me in a better light than I see me, he built it because I had a need, and sometimes the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the few or the many.